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IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 26, 2012 
Lawrence Hajna (609) 984-1795
Lawrence Ragonese (609) 292-2994
Lynne Richmond, Agriculture (609) 633-2954

(TRENTON) -- With temperatures across the state expected to drop well below freezing tonight and tomorrow night, the Department of Environmental Protection and Department of Agriculture are working cooperatively to enable farmers to do controlled open burning or use specialized torches known as smudge pots to protect flowering crops from being damaged. 

The extreme cold temperatures could seriously affect fruit and vegetable crops, as well as flowers in bloom or near bloom around the state. Temperatures that have been above normal have caused these crops to bloom early, in particular apples, peaches and blueberries.

"The next couple of nights could prove critical to many farmers across the state," said DEP Commissioner Bob Martin. "The steps the DEP and Department of Agriculture are allowing on a short-term basis will protect farmers' livelihoods and ensure that consumers will be able to enjoy a bountiful supply of Jersey produce later this year."

New Jersey ranks fourth in the nation in blueberry production, with that crop valued at $94.7 million. The state also ranks fourth in peach production, with the crop worth more than $30 million. Apples are valued at almost $21 million.

"A frost at this sensitive time when fruit trees and bushes have bloomed could mean millions of dollars in crop losses for our farmers,"" said Secretary of Agriculture Douglas H. Fisher. "We want to thank Commissioner Martin for his quick action to give farmers the tools they need to protect their crops."

Farmers must follow the following requirements and restrictions:

  • Farmers who believe they will open-burn and/or use smudge pots must provide notice to the DEP's 24-hour Communications Center at 877 WARN DEP (1-877-927-6337) prior to the use of either technique. Farmers are encouraged to call DEP if they believe they may need to use either technique; notification to DEP does not require the implementation of either procedure. If a farmer does not call DEP in advance but uses either technique, the farmer may notify DEP the morning following the use of either technique but no later than 9 am.
  • Farmers must record the incident number provided to them by the Communications Center.

The following information is to be provided by the farmer:

  • Name of the individual who is making the decision to conduct the open burning/use of smudge pots
  • Name of the farm
  • Actual street address of the farm on which either technique will be used (no P.O. Boxes)
  • Telephone number of a contact at the farm
  • Predicted temperature (in F) at orchard(s) anticipated when the technique will be used
  • Predicted wind speed at orchard(s) anticipated when the technique will be used
  • Predicted hours of open burning/use of smudge pots
  • Predicted material to be used for open burning/use of smudge pots

At the time of the initial call to the Communications Center, farmers will be given an email address and incident number. Within two days, they must submit to DEP via this email address the following information:

  • The DEP Communications Center incident number
  • Ambient orchard(s) temperature (in F) at the time the technique was used
  • Actual wind speed at the orchard at the time the technique was used
  • A statement that all restrictions in the open burning or use of smudge pots were followed.

No open burning will be permitted unless the temperature within the orchard area is at or below the critical temperature for the bud stage for that particular crop and wind velocity is less than five miles per hour. Smudge pots must be fueled only with either kerosene or No. 2 fuel oil.

Open burning can consist only of either the following materials: clean and untreated scrap lumber, felled trees, prunings, hedgerows or firewood. Absolutely no refuse, trade waste, tires or garbage of any type may be added to the authorized open burning material.